Mutual Benefits – Chapter 9

It took me a few minutes after Morgan rushed out to even think of doing something other than sitting there. Eventually, I had stood up, wondering if I should search for them like Morgan was doing for Taylor. And yet, another part of me realized – or at least thought – that that could have been a very dangerous idea. Eventually, I uneasily walked out of the hallway and decided to go to my next class early. 

I didn’t see either of them for the rest of the day. That was normal for Morgan, but for Taylor, it was like some kind of calm before the storm. An ominous warning. To add insult to injury, when Mrs. Li was taking attendance and noted Taylor was missing (and she took attendance well into the class, so even Taylor’s usual lateness couldn’t have been a factor) she turned to me and asked if I knew where she was. I could only meekly shrug in response.

It’s not like I was completely powerless. I had both of their numbers, and a working cell phone. Even if I didn’t receive an answer, I could have easily texted either one of them, shrugged, and told myself, “I did what I could; the rest is up to them.”

Instead of that, because I’m me, I ended up staring at Morgan’s contact info on my phone screen as Kevin and I walked home. Kevin, being Kevin, leaned over to look at my screen and quipped, “Most guys stare at pictures of their girlfriends, but Quinn Shen, nah, he can’t get over how beautiful her phone number looks.”

I looked at him with lowered eyelids and put my phone away, saying nothing to him.

Which, of course, was permission to continue as far as he was concerned. “Are you trying to memorize it?”

“No,” I replied. “I want to text her, but…” I trailed off.

“But…?” he goaded me on. When I didn’t continue, a smile grew on his face. “Ah, your face says it all. Morgan’s upset, but she says, ‘no, I’m fine, why do you ask? Should I be upset?’ Girl trouble, dude. Happens to the best of us.”

I said nothing, preferring to walk in silence. Kevin was having none of it.

“Do you want my advice?”

I sighed. “Do I even get to cho-”

“I say, text her anyways. Let her know she’s here for you. As long as you don’t double-text, ‘clingy guys’ don’t even exist to girls. They love that shit. They want you knowing you’re thinking about them twenty-four-seven. That way they’re less likely to suspect you’re cheating on them.”

I felt a burning in my cheeks. I really hoped Kevin didn’t notice.

Luckily, he was too busy talking to remember I even existed. “Of course, even the most paranoid girl wouldn’t be worried about you cheating on them. Your first date, like, ever? What’re the odds another girl is gonna come on to you? Nah, you ask me, you’re in a uniquely good position to be trusted, Quinn. You shouldn’t worry about that shit at all, dude.”

Please stop talking, Kevin.

“So she’s a little mad. Honestly? It’s probably projection. She had a bad day or something, and wants to see the bad in everyone she’s around. Everyone she can change. And who does she likely have wrapped around her finger? Spell it out. Q-U-I-N-N. You, man. Watch out, she’s gonna say, ‘I just find it funny how…’ Next thing you know, you’re not allowed to say ‘carrots’ or some word around her because her ex was super into carrots and made her feel weird or some shit. Manipulation. Every popular girl does it, and it works the best when it’s guys that feel they should just be grateful she’s into them in the first place. Trust me, don’t fall for it.”

I turned to him slowly. “I stared at a phone and you just wrote a bad Emmy-winning teen drama series based on it,” I told him. “She and I are fine. I’m just nervous about something. Something private. You don’t need to poke your nose into everything.”

“But Quinn…” His smile turned big again. “How else am I gonna win that Emmy?”

I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head at him. I wish I was as carefree as him. It must have been paradise inside that head of his, at least compared to mine.

***

The next day, I decided to have lunch with the Gifted Kids again, something I hadn’t done in frankly too long. It was nice sitting with them, talking about projects and memes and video games. No gossip, no “did you hear what Tiff did third period? Whore,” and no real pressure to be someone other than the loser I formerly was. 

Unfortunately, good things don’t last forever. I must have only sat down for ten to twenty minutes before I felt a hand on my shoulder, a hand of someone dainty yet authoritative. I turned around to see Crystal with a veneer of a kind friend hiding the look of someone that just wanted me to fix something for them.

“Hey Quinn, could I talk to you about something real quick?”

I looked around the table to see the other kids had all looked up from their meals to look at her, then at me, then, almost in unison, go back to their food, too awkward to even bring up the weirdness of this encounter. I didn’t even say anything; I just grabbed my food, stood up, and accepted my fate.

I followed Crystal to the table where they all sat, noting that I was taking one of the two vacant seats – Morgan’s and Taylor’s. I could guess what this was about, but didn’t really need to.

“So, we need to talk about something,” Milo began. “This is the second lunch period in a row where we haven’t seen either Taylor or Morgan.”

“Okay…” I replied slowly, waiting for Milo to continue. When he didn’t, my expression turned to frustration. “I’m not their – I don’t know. Where they are.”

Lexi cut in. “I think you’re lying. You’re Taylor’s tutor, she’s basically only around you or Joel if she’s not around us, and Joel hasn’t seen her either.”

“But I’m here, and she’s not, so clearly she’s not with me,” I reasoned.

“That’s not the point,” Milo cut in. “It’s true, you’re connected with Taylor, and plus… well, I think it’s obvious Morgan’s got a thing for you.” He looked around and met the eyes of his fellow friends.

I held an expression of stone. “I don’t get it,” I flatly said.

Crystal rolled her eyes. “She’s drooling over you,” she replied. 

“Milo told us,” Lexi cut in.

Milo blushed slightly and quickly added, “She said she had a date on the weekend and we’ve seen little signs before that. But now they’ve both been busy, at lunchtime, and neither of them told us where they were, even though we always tell each other when we’re missing lunch and why.”

“Okay okay okay!” I replied exasperatedly, caving. “Yes, the date with Morgan was with me.”

“How far’d you go? Second base? First?” I shot Lexi a look and she gasped. “Don’t tell me it was third.”

“Ignore her. The rest of us do,” Milo quipped. “Just tell us, do you know if something is going on between them? You seem to be a kid of… thread connecting the two.”

I sighed and hung my head. “Okay, I give,” I said to no one in particular. “I don’t even know who’s angry with whom.”

“But you do know something?” Milo asked. I gave no response, so he lifted my head up. “We’ve been here before. I’ve been here before. Be honest with us and we’ll help with this. Be a coward and we can’t do anything to help, either you or them, and we’re always going to remember that you had the chance to help us and didn’t.”

Jeez. Milo could be fierce when he wanted to be. I’m sure my face gave away just how thrilled I was with his little outburst, but I nodded. “Yeah, whatever. I’ll be honest.”

“Were you the one that went on a date with Morgan?” Crystal began.

I opened my mouth but Milo cut in. “Yes, he already admitted that,” he replied.

“Did. You. Fuck?” Lexi asked, standing up.

“We went on a walk,” I answered, hoping that would make her realize how dumb of a question that was.

It didn’t. She gestured around. “That doesn’t answer my question at all!”

“They didn’t,” Milo replied to her.

“How do you know?” Lexi asked.

“We didn’t,” I reaffirmed.

“Finally, thank you! As I suspected.” Lexi sat back down.

“What do you know about Morgan and Taylor? Did you see them yesterday?” Milo asked.

I bit my top lip in thought, unsure to what extent I should answer them. “Yesterday, I was talking to Morgan in the hallway when we ran into Taylor, or rather, she ran into us. She seemed really angry at Morgan for something. My guess is they had a fight or something, or Morgan was supposed to do something for her.”

“And this had nothing to do with you?” Milo asked.

I shrugged. “If it does have something to do with me, I don’t know what it is.”

Crystal had the next question. “Has your relationship with Taylor been completely… professional?” she asked. “Like, has it just been tutoring, or did something happen between you two too?”

Milo craned his neck to answer Crystal, but something held him back. He paused, and eventually turned to face me, waiting to see what I would say.

Milo knew that the answer was “no, we hadn’t been completely professional.” He knew that something happened between us. But I thought, or at least hoped, he understood what I understood about the group when I gave my answer.

“Jeez, Crystal,” I replied, realizing I was almost overacting it. “No. Taylor and I never did anything romantic or sexual. I’m just her tutor.”

Milo stared at me, his expression unchanging, saying nothing. Crystal seemed satisfied with my answer, but Lexi did not. “I think he’s lying,” she announced, to no one in particular. No one responded to her, so she continued. “He lied about not knowing what was going on with Morgan and Taylor, so-”

“But I wasn’t lying about that,” I cut in. “I don’t know what was going on. I just happened to witness Taylor getting mad at her.”

“I still think you’re lying, and that you’re hiding something with Taylor,” Lexi persisted.

I exhaled noisily. “Thank what you want, Lexi. Alright? Think what you want.”

“Do you know where they are now?” Milo asked.

I shook my head. “I don’t even know if they’re in the school. Yesterday Taylor didn’t show up to data management.”

“Morgan was in chem, so, like, she’s in the school,” Crystal interjected.

Milo looked at her, then at me. “I guess I should go find them,” he announced.

Something in the pit of my stomach churned at that. I didn’t know for sure if the Morgan-Taylor thing was my fault, or if it had to do with me, but I was pretty sure it did, somehow. The idea of Milo looking for them, finding them, and finding out more about me was a thought I wasn’t really comfortable with.

“Shouldn’t I go instead?” I asked. “You said yourself that I’m the connection between the two. I have some good ideas where they might go-”

Milo lowered his eyebrows. “We’ve known them for years, Quinn. Don’t act like you’re the only one that knows either of them.”

“…Okay, but, still, I might be able to find out more about what’s going on. Like, if I am the link here, they might be more willing to talk to me about it. If they were willing to talk to you about it, they would have sat down with you guys and hashed it out as a group, right?”

I wasn’t sure if I convinced them, but Milo sighed and looked at his posse. “Alright, whatever. If you wanna do this, go right ahead,” he conceded. “But I’m going too.”

“Just give me until the end of lunch, okay?” I asked. “Pretend this is a favor.”

“Why does this matter so much to you?” Milo asked me, looking me dead in the eye.

“Honestly? I’m just as worried this is about me. I don’t know if I’m being selfish, but I want to find out firsthand what’s going on. Even if we find them together, they might… withhold more details about it.”

Milo shrugged, moving his head. “Alright, that’s actually a fair point.” He held his phone up to me. “Here’s my number though. All I ask is you let me know if you see them.”

I copied down the number on his screen into my phone and promptly left, not saying much more to any of them, making a beeline for the elevator hallway.

I couldn’t stop myself from fiddling with my hands as I walked. I withheld the fact that I was pretty confident this was my fault – Taylor seemed more angry that we were together than anything – but that was a problem future me had to deal with. And only a problem created because Milo had to be nosy.

Well… caring. He cared about his friends. In a nosy way.

The elevator hallway had nobody in it, but I kind of expected that. The school was big, and if people wanted to have private conversations, there were a lot of hallways where you could meet. I checked my watch – I had time. Making a map in my head, I started wandering to different floors, trying to keep my eyes and ears open the whole time. 

Searching for two students in a school the size of Hazelwood may have been a challenge, but knowing that at least one of them could be shouting makes the search a lot more easy. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or horrified when I heard raised voices coming from a particular hallway; Taylor’s voice, to be precise. Whatever was going on, it was clear Taylor was doing most of the talking.

As I got close enough to hear the words she was shouting, it suddenly dawned on me how much I missed being a nerdy nobody. I had to confront what was essentially my nightmare scenario – turn the corner and walk into a shouting match that I had no business walking into, all for the woman I was dating and the woman I had fooled around with. Nerdy nobodies don’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit. Our lives were less exciting, but on the bright side… our lives were less exciting.

I took a deep breath and steeled myself, turning the corner and walking into the pair of them. 

I wasn’t sure how much I liked Morgan, but I was sure I had some kind of feelings for her at this point, and looking at someone you have a crush on with a hand over their mouth and teary eyes just sucks. It was like a sucker punch to the gut. I didn’t say anything, I just stood there awkwardly, no doubt with a face half-stricken with sadness, half nervousness.

Taylor yelled a few more words (“…stabbed me in the fucking back!” to be specific) before noticing me and hesitating, just for a second. A second of silence hung in the air, before she quietly, gravely, let one word escape from her mouth.

“You.”

It was probably reasonable to assume I was connected to this somehow. I stood there, standing my ground, as Morgan quickly became the second person to notice me. When her eyes met with mine, her face did this wincing thing and she bolted out of the hallway, her hands gripping her sides insecurely, her puffy red eyes closed in shame, the cheeks streaked with tears. I tried calling out for her, but in an instant, she was gone.

I watched her leave, then my eyes slowly trailed back to Taylor, who came marching up to me. I looked around nervously for anyone else in the hallway, but as far as we knew, we were alone.

She aimed her gaze squarely at me. “One. Simple. Request,” she barked. “Don’t talk to Morgan. Was that so fucking hard?! Jesus fucking Christ, you’re so exhausting,” she gushed angrily, practically every word accompanied by some sort of vague angry gesture. 

“Wha- what’s…” I started.

“For fuck’s sake, you never even liked Morgan,” she continued, pacing up and down the hallway. “You don’t even like drama. So why, like, start up all this bullshit?!”

“I never said I don’t like Morgan!” I fired back, now getting invested.

“Yes you did!” she argued. “You said it plain as day. It’s why I asked you to not talk to her in the first place!”

“Taylor, you’re the one that insisted I don’t even like her. You asked me if I don’t, implying the answer was yes, and I never answered.”

“Implyi- wha? Quinn, speak fucking English. This isn’t debate club.”

I never said I didn’t like Morgan. You made it up.

Taylor mock-laughed. “So what, you always liked her? This was all a ploy to get at my friend? Is that what you’re fucking saying, Quinn?!”

“Taylor, what’s all this about?” I asked exasperatedly. “Does this have something to do with you and me? Is that why you two were fighting?”

Taylor shook her head at me in anger. “You don’t even get it, huh?”

“I swear I never seemed to get anything since I started tutoring you.”

“I just – like, why would you talk to her? I made it clear that it would be a bad idea.”

“But it was only a bad idea because you got mad when we did!” I protested, then something hit me. “Taylor… are you jealous?”

“No,” she asserted confidently. “It’s not about that. I have a boyfriend.”

Well, at least now she was acknowledging his existence around me. That was progress. “Then what’s it about?” I asked. 

Taylor stared at me a bit, anger still in her eyes but visibly cooled down. I hated to admit it, but she still looked cute as fuck when she pouted like that. “We’re studying tonight,” she told me flatly.

“Are we?” I asked. “What if-”

“You’re free tonight, Quinn. Don’t play games,” she told me in this low voice. It was like a new voice for her. “You told me yourself you don’t do other things, and I, like, know you don’t have a date tonight.”

Ouch. That one stung. I said nothing, staring at her.

“We’re hanging out tonight, Quinn. My place. Bring your data management book. Say yes.”

I said nothing for a bit, trying to stare her down. She met my gaze evenly, and took a single step towards me.

“Yes,” I conceded embarrassingly immediately. She was scary. 

Without smiling or anything, she nodded and left, not saying another word. I was left there, alone in the hallway, remembering my promise to Milo maybe a full minute after she left. I brought my phone up to my hands and opened a text message to Milo, and… stared at the screen. What the hell was I going to tell him? I was no closer to the truth.

It wasn’t like I had much face to lose with him if he found out I met them and learned nothing, and I doubt he would have believed me if I told him I found them and ended up more confused. I put my phone back in my pocket, and wandered off towards my next class.

***

I would have thought Taylor would lose her smoulder by the time the end of the day came, but if anything, it was more apparent. She gave this half-smile to me when we first got settled in the basement, but apart from that, she had a darkened expression the whole time. And, most scarily, she was intensely focused on studying. 

“What’s the holdup?” she barked as I flipped through the pages. “Did I finish percentages or didn’t I?”

“You did, you did, I’m just trying to figure out which unit came next,” I replied diplomatically. This was new for me, but I wanted to defuse the situation as best as I could. She clearly had a rough day and the last thing she needed was for me to be impatient with her, I guess.

When I had found the page, she was angrily texting someone on her phone. “Son of a bitch,” she muttered to herself. “Fuck off and die.”

“Friend of yours?” I inquired dryly. 

“Some fucking boys are so inconsiderate,” she replied bitterly. “Y’know, my dad’s a black belt. Karate. I could, like, stick him on people.”

I shrugged. “That is the white dad stereotype,” I replied. I hunched over and mimed holding a shotgun. “If yew ever come near mah daughter…” I continued in a terrible Southern accent.

That was the closest I came to seeing a genuine smile from Taylor the whole night. She composed herself. “Anyway, like, some guys are just…”

“Is it Joel?”

“No, but he’s being a jerk too,” she commented. “What’s the next unit?”

“You seem to have a lot of things going on,” I pressed her. “Would you like to talk ab-”

“What’s the next unit, Quinn?”

I sighed, looking at her for long enough for her to return my gaze before answering her. She looked at me for a brief moment before, amazingly, looking down at the floor. That was good enough for me and my eyes returned to the book, ready to resume studying. 

We kept it up for the next hour or so, taking only a short break along the way. Taylor was clearly preoccupied on her phone, so much so that she kept asking “when I thought we’d be done,” but at least in the last twenty minutes or so, seemed focused on the task at hand, so much so that we beat my projected finish time by at least fifteen minutes.

Taylor closed her book, smiling for the first time that night; a satisfied smirk. “I’m, like, gonna ace this,” she mumbled to herself.

“Here’s hoping,” I replied. “So, are we going to address today?”

“Huh?”

“What you said to me in the hallway. Your not-jealousy over Morgan and me.”

Her expression soured. “Boy, you can’t just, like, let that go, huh? She must mean a lot to you. When were you going to tell me you went on a date with her of all people?”

“I…” I sighed. “I probably should have told you when it first happened, but even by then you forbade us from talking. We met outside school by chance, and we found out about her crush by chance too. Kind of.”

“Quinn, you moron…” Taylor commented, shaking her head. “It wasn’t by chance. It wasn’t, like, an accident.”

“Well, even if it wasn’t, so what? We should be allowed to talk. We shouldn’t be forbidden from doing it.”

“It makes everything complicated, Quinn. You said you hated drama, so I was trying to help you.”

“Wait, you were trying to help me by forbidding me from talking to someone that was developing feelings for me, all because some drama could develop? Drama that you caused?” I asked, anger flaring in my eyes.

The same anger flared in hers, accompanied by the beginning of something welling up in her eyes. “Quinn…” she began in a quieter voice than usual. “…am I not allowed to dislike things?”

“Huh?” The question took me aback.

“Am I, like, allowed to see things coming, feel… feel threatened, and just use what I have to try to keep things okay?”

“So what, you thought if I liked Morgan, we wouldn’t be able to keep studying? Or keep ‘studying?’” I used my hands for air-quotes with the last word, displaying a joking smile.

“It’s not funny.”

My expression soured. “I’m trying to make jokes after hearing you basically manipulate your friends and their feelings just to feel in control.”

“Shut up. That’s, like, blowing it way out of precaution.”

“Proportion.”

“Sure, whatever. Weren’t you the one that said you wanted to be friends with me, and you were worried that without studying, we wouldn’t have a friendship?” she asked exasperatedly.

“So what, you didn’t want me making friends because it might mean I’d have someone else in the world other than you?”

“Quinn, whenever any guy has anyone in the world other than me, they choose her. Every fucking time.” The welling up in her eyes produced a single tear that streamed down her face. “Can you really hate me for trying to fight when he’s… when it’s just one friend?”

I sighed in sympathy. “Taylor, I don’t hate you” I began softly.

“If she asks you on a date and I want to study, you’d pick her every time,” she pouted. 

“If you asked me out before her, I probably would have said yes,” I replied back in earnest. “And you have someone like that now anyways.”

“I just wanted you to not… get bored of me, I guess,” she continued. “And now it’s like, I already know we won’t get to… you know…”

I stared at her, not finding words.

She continued. “…and I want to. Everyone else gets to, even while they’re dating me. But now, I feel like… there’s already this, like, wall between us. Either tell me there isn’t a wall and we can still do what we’ve been doing, or there is a wall and I can’t be blamed for what I did.”

I chuckled. “Taylor, you really want to avoid responsibility, don’t you? ‘Either let me have what I want or tell me I was justified when I was being selfish.’ I don’t have to pick either of those two things.”

“Oh fuck you, Mister High and Mighty,” Taylor snapped. “Of course you ‘see the light’ or some shit now that you have a date. A date you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t, like, met me.”

I chuckled again. “Is that it? Do you want me to thank you? Well, sure.” I stood up and made an exaggerated gesture of gratitude towards her. “Thank you. Thank you, Taylor. I appreciate everything you did for me, and without you, I wouldn’t have gotten this chance with Morgan. I’m sorry that it means you no longer have a monopoly on my social life. If you want that in a man, may I suggest you either find a man who’s currently serving a prison sentence in solitary confinement or grow the fuck up.”

As much of a zinger as that last line was, I knew it was crossing the line before it even made its way out of my mouth, and in case I didn’t, the slap in the face Taylor gave me made me well aware of that.

Pain shot from my cheek across my face like electricity. She gave a hell of a slap. It ended up being so powerful that I started to lose my balance, and fell over onto my back. I wanted to tell her sorry, but some kind of shock reaction from the slap made me unable to speak, unable to do anything other than fall onto my butt and grab my cheek, looking at her.

She clearly wasn’t satisfied with just the slap though. Clearly going for the maximum effect, she crawled over to me and sat herself down on my abdomen, forcing me to do nothing but look her in the face from under her.

“I’m, like, in a really bad mood, so just listen,” she ordered. “I’m not asking you to only pay attention to me. I’m not asking you to only talk to me, and I’m not asking you to only fuck me. I just want to feel, for once, like I’m not this replaceable little doll who just exists for other guys to look at, have, like, fun with, and then they throw me away or something. I’m allowed to say I deserve more than that. I thought something complicated was going to happen with Morgan. To be honest, I thought you two were gonna fight, after the first few, like, conversations you had. So yeah, I stepped in. That’s not a crime. It’s perfectly reasonable. And I don’t care what happened, or what happens, between you two. What matters is the, like, principle. I asked you not to talk to her, and you said you wouldn’t and did. I asked her to do the same too. Even my own friends. Can’t even be honest with me. Fuck.”

The fact that she was cute when she pouted unfortunately did not stop during her little rant. I listened as best as I could, but the fact that I was getting treated to a face full of cuteness plus knowing that she was on top of me, pinning me down… one could guess how my body was reacting. After a bit, I started blushing and shifting around.

She was in mid-sentence when I started shifting, and slowly stopped talking. “What are you- wait…” She looked behind her, to my crotch, revealing to her eyes the tent forming in my pants. “Are you serious?! Have you paid attention to anything I’ve been saying??”

I raise my hands up in front of my face. “I-I can’t help it! It’s my body’s natural reaction! You thought Morgan and I were going to fight, you tried to stop it, you’re not asking me to only like you, and you didn’t like that I didn’t tell you and you’re worried about getting used and thrown away. I listened, alright?”

Taylor said nothing, still at her awkward angle from when she saw my erection and yet with her gaze pointed right at my face. “Hmm,” she finally said, her stare returning to my crotch. She adjusted her body so she was fully back on me again, moving my body slowly backwards, sliding down my torso. Her face darkened again.

It was weird. She still looked angry, but like… determined. Like she was making a choice. Eventually, her body slid over my crotch. I winced as she slid the crotch of her own pants off of me… and then back on. It took a few of these to realize she was grinding her crotch against mine. 

“Tay-”

“No. Not another word. Unless the word is ‘stop,’ I don’t want to hear it, Quinn,” she ordered. “Tell me to stop, and I will. Forever, if you want. But you have to say that.” She looked me dead in the eye and continued to grind on me, her look still determined and slightly angry.

I stared at her for a while, a look of steel likely on my own face, as I tried to figure her out. What was her game here? Did she even have a game? Was this her way of trying to tell me that we both have feelings and what was happening was inevitable? ‘I won’t tell if you don’t?’ Whatever it was, I only stared back at her. A part of me wanted to open my mouth and tell her to stop, or just tell her anything, but for the life of me, I couldn’t. And I couldn’t ignore it – my heart rate was rising. My breathing quickening. My fucking hormones be damned… I couldn’t just ignore the hottest girl in the school grinding on top of me, looking at me like she wanted to mount me right then and there. We could get along great or fight, but one thing was abundantly clear – we wanted each other, badly.

Slowly, trying my hardest not to make it timid, I started grinding back against her. As soon as she felt it, the smallest semblance of a smile formed on her face, and she nodded. She leaned forward, setting her hands down on the floor on either side of my head, and put her whole body into it, grinding her entire body up against mine.

I wanted so badly to not do this. Some rational part of me was screaming about how wrong this was. But I was hooked on her, and wanted more. As she moved her body against mine, I couldn’t hold myself back and grabbed my ass with both hands, holding it and squeezing it, helping her grind herself against me.

“You like this ass?” she moaned for me.

I could only groan in response.

A sheen of sweat began to appear on her face, and she was getting more and more into it. Hell, so was I. I could have exploded in my pants if I wasn’t careful, and if it wasn’t for our previous ‘studying sessions,’ I likely would have. I wanted nothing more than to mount her and fuck my seed into her at that very moment, throwing her against the wall and drilling her like the bitch in heat she was.

Her pants began to evolve into little erotic moans, high-pitched and needy. We were both completely clothed and yet, after doing this clothed grinding for a couple of minutes, it was like this was the hottest thing in the world to us. The teasing and yet the fully understood mutual desire to fuck each other’s brains out… it was palpable. We could both feel it. We both wanted it. We were both just laying there, desperately moving our bodies against each other, wanting it so badly, waiting for the other to make the first move. We were two teens addicted to each other’s bodies, sharing that awkward teen lust of waiting for the green light. 

“I want you to fuck me. I want to go all the way.”

I had my eyes closed in concentration, but they shot open at that moment. I gave her an ‘are you serious?’ look, and in response, she bit her bottom lip and nodded. Any and all steely determination was gone, replaced with a pouty, begging, almost pathetic desire to go all the way. She was like a dam that was going to burst with just a little more pressure. She lost control of herself. She just wanted more. She wanted me. My cock. Inside her. Desperately, as if she couldn’t bear to be without it. 

In hindsight, this was probably one of my strongest moments ever. Here I was, equally pathetic, grinding back against her, wanting nothing more than to be inside her, to fuck Taylor Wise, to claim her as my own little horny bitch, and heck, to give her payback for everything she just put me through. And yet…

I shook my head, unable to stop my hips from moving even as I said what I said. “I don’t think we should,” I replied.

“I don’t care, Quinn, I don’t care what we should do. I just want you so badly, and fuck, you want me. My pussy is yours, just take it…”

God damn, she was making this painful. “No,” I asserted.

She pouted, but nodded. “Okay,” she backed down, understanding, still moving her hips too. Even though we weren’t going to do it (and I just turned down a golden opportunity I might never have again), neither of us could stop our teenage hormone-addled bodies, both hot as firecrackers and ready to blow at any second. 

Wordlessly, not needing to say anything more, we went at it for a while longer. Minutes? Hours? I couldn’t say. It was a bit uncomfortable after a bit, but neither one of us wanted to stop, as if a spell would be broken if one of us so much as shifted. As far as I was concerned, unless divine intervention got in the way, we could have dry-humped each other until one of us died of starvation. 

I had closed my eyes in concentration periodically, just to prevent myself from going too crazy or shooting a load into my pants, so I was both acutely aware and slightly disappointed when Taylor started to slow down. I lazily opened my eyes to see if she was okay or if something was on her mind or something like that, and found she was staring off at some part of the room. I followed where her eyes were leading.

Dreams seem to have this prophetic quality. MAybe we dream because we can sense these things coming. It still didn’t make my heart stop any less than when I saw Morgan standing in the corner of the room, arms folded, expression blank, saying nothing.

Was this a dream? Was I dreaming? Was my mind just going to worst-case scenario? No matter what it was, I panicked. Not thinking straight, I practically shoved Taylor off of me, feeling the color drain from my face, and awkwardly stood up, backing away from Morgan to the opposite wall. 

Painfully, Morgan didn’t speak. I guess she didn’t need to. Taylor just sat there, having recovered from me pushing her, staring at Morgan as if she was trying to stare her down. I couldn’t see Taylor’s face, so I didn’t know what she looked like. All I knew was that Morgan’s blank expression was driving me mad.

I attempted to speak, but all that came out was a dry nervous squeak. I cleared my throat, swallowed, and tried again. “H-how long have you been s-standing there? W-why are you standing there??”

“About a minute,” Morgan replied in this ominously calm voice. “And because I was invited.” Unfolding her arms, she turned to stare down Taylor again.

Taylor stood up as I processed what I was being told. “So… you knew about us?” I asked incredulously.

Morgan turned back to me as if I was the least important person in the room, and gently nodded. “I got the tears out when I was first told. I think you saw that.” She turned to Taylor. “Though I bet someone here was expecting more tears. Well, I have no more tears to give, Taylor. I’m just tired. Tired of you.”

Even from behind I could see Taylor open her mouth to speak, but she was quickly shut up by the second slap of the night. At once, Morgan’s expression changed from blank to completely furious, and yet, her expression for the most part seemed calm. Her mouth hadn’t changed, nor her nose, or any other part except her eyes. Her eyes contained a storm of fury, all centered on Taylor. 

“This is what you wanted, right? For me to see? Did you think I’d blame it all on him and just forgive you? Did you think I’d never get tired of this shit?” She raised her hand again, causing Taylor to clearly cower and brace herself, but simply lowered her hand again. “I believed you when you told me. Showing me isn’t proving, it’s taunting, and you know that, you psycho.”

I was stuck between feeling my heart sinking through the floor in guilt, and thanking my lucky stars that I hadn’t taken Taylor up on her offer to fuck her. 

Wait…

I exploded at Taylor. “Was this why you tried to-”

A single finger from Morgan, as well as the most deadly serious expression a human being ever gave me, stopped me mid-sentence. “I want to do the talking,” Morgan simply told me. “Have your turn later.”

She turned back to Taylor but was still addressing me. “This has less to do with you than you think, Quinn. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. This isn’t the first time this happened, and I was dumb to think the first time would be the last. She just does this.” She shook her head at Taylor. “She can’t help it.”

“Fuck you,” Taylor spat, the first words she said since getting caught, though getting caught was clearly her intent. “You’re the one that keeps doing this to me. I’ll stop when you do.”

Morgan sighed, her normal expression returning. “I thought about inviting Joel over, you know. Give you a taste of your own medicine. You clearly wanted me to see, why shouldn’t I want the same for you?” She paused. “If you’re feeling scared imagining if that happened, then try to imagine how I’m feeling.”

“He would have blamed Quinn though,” Taylor pointed out. 

Morgan lazily turned to face me, then turned back. She sighed again. “I hate that you’re right,” she mumbled. “What will it take for you to stop acting like you get to control everything?”

“So this is just something she does?” I couldn’t help asking. “Or, at least, something she’s done once? So you’re not mad at me?”

“I thought I asked you to let me speak,” Morgan rebutted me calmly. “I am mad at you. Of course I’m mad at you. But you never had the idea to do this…” She looked back at Taylor again as she finished her thought. “…just the lack of willpower.”

I shivered as Taylor turned to face me. “I told you, Quinn. Every guy cheats.”

I felt my blood boil. “You’re the one that caused this!” I blew up. “You cornered me into this! I wanted to stop this and even told you that!!”

Morgan intervened. “I reserve the right to be mad at you for not stopping it. If you don’t think that’s fair, I don’t know what to tell you. Are you also angry that Taylor isn’t taking responsibility for her actions? How about you set the standard and take responsibility for your own?”

Jesus fuck, Morgan could be terrifying without even raising her voice when she wanted to be. She was still looking at me without saying anything, so I felt compelled to speak. “If I had… if we were boyfriend and girlfriend, like, officially, then I would have held my ground more,” I defended myself. “Taylor explained to me the distinction between just dating and in a relationship, and only now I’m realizing she may have just been telling me what she wanted me to believe…”

Morgan looked at Taylor in confusion. “The difference between…?” she repeated.

“Way to, like, throw me under the bus, Quinn,” Taylor mumbled at me angrily. “I was just telling him about my own experiences, and like… my…”

“Outlook.”

“Outlook, yeah. That part is not my fault.”

I cleared my throat, wanting to keep Morgan’s attention while I still had it. “I have learned from this, and I don’t want anything to come between us. I think I really do want to be your boyfriend, Morgan. I’ll make the offer now, if you’ll have me.”

Morgan’s look of confusion intensified as she turned to me. “Quinn, read the room,” she scolded me. “Now is probably the worst time to make me that offer. It will take me a lot longer to make my own decision about that, especially now.”

I hung my head, chastised, as Morgan turned back to Taylor. “I just don’t get it,” she began softly towards her. “You hate it, more than anything, when your heart is broken. You don’t shut up about how all men just break your heart and sleep around with every girl they can find. So why the hell are you trying so damn hard to be the other woman?”

That broke some kind of barrier for Taylor. With the way she spat even the first word, I could tell she was furious. “Me?! You’re the other woman here, not me! I knew Quinn first, and we had that connection first, and I bet you couldn’t handle that! You always have to have what I have, even after I finally get the one guy that gives me what no other guy could!”

I was feeling confident about that last part until Morgan gave the game away. “Submission and loyalty? Really? Coming from the girl that has a boyfriend?!” Her face unhinged as she talked. Finally, anger spread throughout her face, and it was even scarier than I thought. I could only shrink down into the corner I had backed myself into, as the catfight continued. 

…And continued, and continued… shows, movies and books did a good job of making these kinds of fights look more short and concise, and less pointless and… repetitive. Over time I was realizing two things. A, they had gotten to the point where they had recycled the same talking points to each other three frigging times, and B, it was getting late. I really did not want to have to be the one to intervene and be assertive, but some sixth sense in me was telling me that when teenage girls got like this, they’d do it for hours until they burnt themselves out, and I didn’t have the patience for that.

As if I had any right, I got up and marched into the middle of the room, physically separating the two, still mid-yell. 

“This is stupid and has gone on for way too long,” I yelled to both of them. “You’re getting nothing done yelling at each other, so find a place to sit down and listen to what I have to say for a bit.” Taylor opened her mouth to protest so I quickly added, “Don’t argue, just do it!”

That seems to have done it. I felt good, like I was Ben Manibag when I said that or something, though realistically speaking I probably looked more like Napoleon Dynamite. Morgan didn’t argue, sitting on the floor (albeit with her trademark blank-yet-displeased expression) and Taylor sat in her beanbag chair, her sourness evident on her face.

I began talking, not really having a plan in mind but feeling confidence flowing in my veins. “This situation is a lot like math in two important ways,” I began. “One, the solution will be made clear if we ask the right questions, and two, if Taylor doesn’t pay attention, she’s doomed to just repeat the last year over again.” I pointed to Morgan. “So, first question. Do you want to break up with me and never date me again?”

Morgan was taken aback by the question, though clearly equally not amused by it. “This isn’t the time to ask me.”

“Yes it is,” I asserted.

“Well then I can only answer that I don’t know,” she concluded defiantly.

I shook my head. “Not good enough. But, tell you what, Taylor and I will be silent and allow you the space to think until you do have an answer.” I maintained eye contact with Taylor as silence filled the room. It was a really good sign that Morgan was still willing to listen to me, and to my ideas. 

Finally, Morgan spoke. “I think, given the circumstances and knowing Taylor, I’m willing to give you another chance.”

I nodded, weirdly not even caring about her answer as much as where I wanted this to go, and turned to Taylor. “Can you understand why Morgan was hurt?”

“Yes, but-”

‘Yes’ was all I needed. “What were you trying to accomplish here, with me?”

Morgan cut in. “She was trying to break us up. That was her main goal, that’s what she was gunning for, and that’s a big reason why I’m giving you another chance.”

Spite. Awesome. That’s a reassuring reason to stick by someone. Taylor interjected, finally giving her reply. “I was trying to, like, show to Morgan how this kind of thing can, like, really fucking hurt,” she said plainly. “Like, yeah, she was hurting, but I was hurting too, and it’s like she wasn’t even aware of it, or didn’t even care, until I hurt her back.”

“Taylor, that’s not fair,” Morgan argued. “You two were, correct me if I’m wrong, just friends with benefits. No offense, if even that. You two weren’t in a relationship. A relationship wasn’t even on the table for you two.”

“Exactly!” Taylor almost shouted. “We weren’t anything. You were something. If you asked him to be exclusive, he would have done it. Fuck, you didn’t even ask and he was still like, ‘oh, I dunno, what if my date wants to be exclusive and didn’t tell me yet?’ You didn’t even care about him until I did. You didn’t even have, like, an interest in him until I was doing stuff with him, just like with Derek.”

Morgan sighed and softened her expression once that name was brought up. There was clearly history here. “Taylor, hey, look, I totally get why you were angry about the Derek thing, but we already talked about it. And I told you, Derek went for me first.”

“So then why is this any different? Why can’t you get why I…” Taylor couldn’t even finish her sentence. She was tearing up.

Morgan sighed an empathetic sigh and got up, moving over to the beanbag chair. In one motion she got over to Taylor and enveloped her in a hug. A slow, understanding hug, full of support and care. It was kind of sweet to witness. 

The hug lasted a decently long time and afterwards, the two gave polite half-smiles to each other, then Morgan looked at me and Taylor just thought to herself. I realized I was going somewhere with my line of questioning.

“Oh, right. Morgan, if you knew, and you were thinking about bringing Joel, why did you come at all?”

Morgan shrugged. “I fully knew, believed, and processed by that point what was going on between you two. It was easy to believe, if I can be honest. You’re naive, you two were weirdly close for just studying, and I think Taylor suspected me for a bit. If she and I were going to talk about this, I’d rather it not be in school, you know? I wasn’t sure if you would be here or not, but yeah, two birds, one stone. And I made the choice to come in quietly just to see for myself. That was… a choice.” She got a far-away look in her eyes. “It’s weird. For most people I think that would be, like, traumatizing. For me it’s almost comforting if I suspect it. Confirmation, you know? ‘Hey, look, it is really happening.’ I’m over the shock of it, all that’s left is… witnessing it, addressing it, seeing what happens next.”

“And what happens next?”

Morgan shrugged. “You’re the one with the questions and the solution. Keep going.”

I winced sheepishly. “Actually, those were all the questions I had. I thought I would have a more concrete solution by now.”

“I have a question.” 

Both Morgan and I turned to face Taylor, who had clearly composed herself and was ready to rejoin. “You know what’s going on. You know why. Can I keep doing stuff with him?”

I scrunched up my face. Jeez, what a charmer. If nothing else, was this really only a question for Morgan? C’mon.

Morgan stood up, her steely look returning. “You still have a boyfriend, Taylor. Take some respo-”

“You were the one to tell me about him and Abby.”

Morgan stopped mid-sentence at the assertion and her eyebrows eventually lowered. Still a steely look, but now… sad. Like she had been cornered. Something in their clique’s logic spoke to her. She slowly looked at me, as if trying to gauge my face for a response, and gave me one of the biggest shockers of the night in response. 

“Up to you, Quinn.”

After she said that, with her trademark blank expression, she began walking towards the stairs. “Woah, wait,” I quickly replied, chasing after her. “I can’t have heard that right.”

“You did,” she replied calmly. “Any damage this could have done is done. I don’t think doing it any more will hurt me more, and stopping won’t undo the hurt. So at this point, it’s up to you.” She didn’t even stop walking as she talked. 

“So this really is okay with you?” I asked incredulously.

Morgan was at the top of the stairs, near the door, soon out be out of the room and the conversation. She turned to me and shrugged. “More like I never had this conversation in the first place. And what I don’t know about doesn’t hurt me. Can I go? My brother is waiting in the car.” Not even waiting for my answer, or anything more from Taylor, Morgan left, leaving a stunned me and a visibly elated Taylor in the room.

“Holy fuck, did you hear that?” Taylor asked me in celebration. “We can, like, keep doing this! I mean, if you want, of course, of course.”

I was still dumbfounded. I guess her reasoning was sound, but… people didn’t reason like that. We were always emotional creatures, even an antisocial git like me knew that. No, this was wrong. Something about this was very wrong. 

Taylor and I debriefed after Morgan left – nothing huge, no revelations. It was mostly stuff already revealed in that confrontation, along with actual apologies from Taylor for what she did. I insisted on those. 

“And you understand why what you did was wrong, right?” I asked her.

“Of course I do,” she admitted. “I just… when the world is against you, you make dumb decisions sometimes just to keep feeling okay.”

“And you’ve learned you don’t need to make dumb decisions now, right?” I asked, hoping she wouldn’t realize that being this dumb and petty ultimately got her everythnig she wanted. 

“Mhm!” she nodded enthusiastically. “I’ll be good. I’m so glad that things worked out like this! And hey, since they did work out like this, who knows, maybe it turns out we will keep talking over the summer after finals.” She gave me a wink. 

I couldn’t accept that. Some part of me just couldn’t. I couldn’t say why I felt this way, but I felt like this was all just a big… something. Like a loyalty test. Morgan gave me a trick answer and wanted to see if I’d go along with it. Well, like hell I would. Taylor may have gotten Morgan’s forgiveness, but if there was one thing I had clearly learned tonight, it was that as much as I had a primal animal lust attraction towards Taylor, she was manipulative, no matter her reasons, and more importantly, she was just secondary. Of the two, Morgan was clearly the more important one to me, and I needed to prove that – not just to her, but to myself. 

________________________________________

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